For Adrienne Webb, the games aren’t always on the court.
She plays basketball with a simmering intensity, and when Webb went scoreless on an 0-for-5 shooting night Thursday at Arkansas, she retreated into the recesses of her mind and the LSU practice gym to find her shooting stroke.
“It took a few days to get over it,” Webb admitted.
Shoot all you want, LSU coach Nikki Caldwell still told her. The light is still green, and green means go get your points.
The only toll to be paid was 400 made shots in the gym Friday and Saturday, shots in addition to practice.
When Webb’s first free throw spun through the air Sunday and flicked the net, she knew. The touch was back in her hands, her hours of lonely labor hadn’t been for nothing, and the team she wants to carry on her slender shoulders could count on her again.
Count on her as they never have before, as it turned out.
Sunday against Mississippi State, Webb was 9-of-14 from the floor including 4-of-6 from beyond the 3-point arc and 6-of-6 at the free-throw line.
When she was done, the preseason All-Southeastern Conference senior guard had a career-high 28 points, and the Lady Tigers had a critical 62-42 victory to place in their SEC win column.
“She’s our go-to player,” said forward Theresa Plaisance, serious praise considering Plaisance came in leading the SEC with 18.3 points per game. “She was ‘o-fer’ in Arkansas, but I said to somebody the other day, ‘You’ll never see Webb go o-fer again.’
“She’s a great athlete and has a high ‘ball IQ.’ We expect a lot out of her.”
No more than Webb expects out of herself. Knowing she wasn’t doing everything she could for her team, shooting 41.1 percent from the field coming in, gnawed at her spirit.
“I didn’t feel like I was giving my all to my team,” Webb said. “On defense (I was), but I wasn’t helping us on offense. You’ve got to play both ends.
“I set a goal for myself to get in the gym and get shots up, 3s or 2s, I just wanted to be more productive for my team and make us better.”
LSU (11-6, 2-2 SEC) was letting struggling Mississippi State (8-9, 0-4) hang around most of the first half, dreaming an upset was possible after pulling within 17-13 on a steal and fast-break jumper by Katia May with 5:44 left before halftime.
State was doubling Plaisance inside, holding her to 10 points and nine rebounds on just 4-of-13 shooting. LSU freshman guard Danielle Ballard — the SEC’s freshman leader with 14.9 points per game — was struggling to find the mark, going 1-for-8.
But that’s when LSU woke up the Bulldogs with the cold splash of an 18-2 run to end the first half, a run that was mostly Webb’s handiwork.
Webb sank a 3-pointer in front of the State bench, banked in a 2, drilled another 3-pointer and scored on a fast break after Bianca Lutley made a steal near the time line and whipped a breathtaking behind-the-back pass crosscourt to Webb as she fell out of bounds.
LSU’s streak carried over into the second half, as the Lady Tigers went up 41-15 on another Webb 3-pointer with 17:02 left.
“To have Plaisance go 4-for-13 and Ballard go 1-for-8, you’d think you’d have a shot,” State coach Vic Schaefer said. “Then to have a kid go 9-for-14, we weren’t quite ready for that.”
Both teams were without key players.
State freshman forward Sherise Williams, averaging 7.0 points per game, walked out on crutches because of a stress fracture. LSU junior guard Jeanne Kenney (5.4 ppg) watched from the bench after banging up her shoulder Friday in practice.
Caldwell inserted forward Shanese McKinney in Kenney’s place in the lineup. She responded with four points and seven rebounds.
Caldwell said she expects Kenney to be available to play at 6 p.m. CST Thursday when LSU travels to face South Carolina (14-3, 2-2), which lost 42-40 Sunday at Georgia.
LSU has struggled on the road this season, going 2-5, including 0-2 in the SEC at Arkansas and Florida. But Caldwell is hopeful her team has some confidence to build on now.
“In the SEC, we beat each other up,” she said. “Every win is huge. Whenever we can come away with a decisive win and one of our players comes out of their slump, it helps the confidence of the others.”
For an LSU team already locked in a race to post enough wins to get into the NCAA tournament, it can use all the Webb-spun confidence it can get.
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